The human gut is home to trillions of bacteria, some of which are necessary for healthy digestion and immune function. When these good bacteria become overrun with pathogenic microbes, it can lead to a slew of unpleasant symptoms, such as diarrhea and abdominal pain. Perhaps the most detrimental effect of this situation is compromised immunity- many people unknowingly suffer from chronic periodontal disease or other infections due to lowered immunity levels.
What Are Prebiotics?
Prebiotics are a particular type of dietary fiber that feeds the good bacteria in your gut rather than causing them to multiply. Unlike probiotics, which actively introduce beneficial microbes into your system, prebiotics work by supporting bacteria already present in your gut. For this reason, they are sometimes referred to as food for the good bacteria already in your system.
How Does Prebiotics Work?
There are two main ways that prebiotics can act as a food source for the good bacteria in your gut. First, they cause the harmful bacteria to decrease in population- this is how fibers like oat bran and psyllium work. Second, they bind to receptors on the surface of the bacterial cells and prevent them from invading other parts of your body. While they act as a food source for the existing good bacteria, prebiotics also provides essential nutrients to help sustain a healthy gut environment.
20 Prebiotic Foods for Better Digestion
As prebiotic foods work by feeding the good bacteria in your gut, they can be very helpful in improving digestion and strengthening immunity. Most people struggle with a leaky gut that allows pathogens to enter the body, caused by a lack of prebiotics in their diet. Incorporating more of these beneficial dietary fibers into your meals will help you maintain a healthy gut environment and improve digestion. Here are 20 prebiotic foods for better digestion.
Buckwheat is an agricultural crop harvested before it reaches maturity, at which point leftover seeds are stripped of their hulls and husks and ground into a fine flour. This ground floor has a shallow nutritional value, but soaking the seeds in water allows the so-called inulin molecules to bind to receptors on the surface of the cell walls of gut bacteria, allowing them to pass through intact. This simple process has a profound effect on the gut flora- it makes it much easier for the good bacteria to pass through the gut wall and access the bloodstream. Once inside, they can be transported to other body areas, including the kidneys and liver. Buckwheat is also a very high source of dietary fiber, which helps increase regularity.
There are two main types of prebiotic fiber in sorghum: amylopectin and oligosaccharides. The amylopectin forms a viscous gel form that adheres to the bacteria in your gut and allows them to pass through intact. The oligosaccharides are also very beneficial for gut health, as they bind to receptors on the surface of the bacterial cell wall and allow them access to the bloodstream.
Oats are another prebiotic food that can help improve digestion by reducing the harmful bacteria in your gut. Oat bran is one of the most well-known sources of oat fiber, which helps control cholesterol levels and regulate blood sugar levels in people with diabetes. Oat fiber is insoluble, meaning it passes through your digestive system without breaking down and thus provides no nutrition to your body. That is precisely why it makes the perfect food- all of the nutrients are passed on to your gut bacteria, leaving only insoluble fibers behind.
Red saffron is the most expensive spice globally, and for a good reason. It is a potent antioxidant and has long been used as an herbal remedy for various ailments. Many cultures have long used herbs like red saffron to promote the healing of wounds, restore strength or revitalize tired bodies. The highest concentration of antioxidants can be found in the stigmas’ tip, making this a potent anti-aging ingredient. Saffron also has powerful antibacterial properties against pathogenic organisms like E. coli and salmonella. Red saffron is one of the most potent foods for improving digestion and boosting immunity, making it a valuable addition to any diet.
Garlic has been used as a medicinal herb since ancient times and is one of man’s most potent natural antibiotics. It is loaded with allicin and selenium, two powerful antioxidants that kill harmful bacteria by creating free radicals that mess with their cell structures. Garlic also contains allicin, which helps the body by breaking down cholesterol and fatty acids. Look for organically grown garlic to ensure that you take the best possible form. Another important prebiotic in garlic is inulin, which is a soluble fiber that is highly fermentable in the gut, aiding in the growth of friendly gut bacteria.
Onions are beneficial food for improving digestion, as they contain the good-for-you compound allicin. Allicin is a potent antimicrobial that kills more than 90% of the bacteria found in onions, destroying harmful bacteria before they can wreak havoc on your gut. It is also a potent scavenger of free radicals, acting as a powerful antioxidant to help maintain vital immune function and ward off the harmful effects of aging. Onions are also rich in other powerful nutrients that help improve digestion and circulation, such as vitamin C, chromium, and selenium. Like garlic, onions also include inulin, an important prebiotic fiber.
7) Baked Beans
Baked beans are one of the most healthy foods for digestive health, as they are loaded with two very powerful prebiotic fibers: alpha-galactosides and oligosaccharides. Getting your daily dose of alpha-galactosides helps resist carbohydrate cravings and quell hunger pangs, leading to weight loss. Oligosaccharides also bind to receptors on the surface of your intestinal wall, preventing harmful bacteria from passing through and allowing good bacteria more accessible access to the bloodstream. Be sure to buy your beans from the original manufacturers, as mass-produced beans may lack some of the beneficial properties.
Lentils are a great source of soluble and insoluble fiber, making them a potent prebiotic food that improves digestion and promotes regularity. The digestive enzymes can break down the soluble fiber in your body to release sugars that feed the beneficial bacteria in your gut. It enables better nutrient absorption, overall health, and well-being.
Asparagus is one of the most well-known prebiotic foods due to its role as a diuretic. When the body is dehydrated, the kidneys release more water from the tissues to flush out toxins from the body and prevent excess swelling in tissues or amoeba. It is why asparagus is such a portion of great food for people with swollen tummies. Asparagus also has a long history of use as a food for promoting digestion and maintaining overall health, making it another helpful addition to your diet.
Soybeans are a great source of prebiotic fiber and are packed with healthy nutrients. Soybeans contain phytoestrogens, sodium, and saponins, promoting good digestion and lowering cholesterol. They also help stabilize blood sugar levels in people with diabetes, which can help prevent cravings that lead to weight gain and obesity. Soybeans are an often forgotten superfood that deserves a spot on your plate more often than not.
Mushrooms are a popular addition to most recipes, and for a good reason. They are one of the few vegetable sources of vitamin D, essential for calcium absorption and healthy bones. They also contain ergothioneine, an antioxidant that can help prevent cancer. Portobello mushrooms, in particular, are a good source of the prebiotic fiber chitin, which helps promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria such as lactobacillus and bifidobacteria.
Cabbage is another food rich in prebiotic fiber and promotes healthy gut bacteria. It contains two types of prebiotic fibers called fructooligosaccharides and oligofructose that help reduce bloating and constipation and promote regular bowel movements. Cabbage also has more than ten times more vitamin C than an orange, making it a potent antioxidant that supports overall health. Cabbage is an under-utilized food rich in nutrients and benefits your gut health, making it a great addition to any diet.
Broccoli is rich in beneficial compounds called indole-3-carbinol and sulforaphane, which are potent antioxidants that inhibit the growth of cancer cells, balance estrogen levels, and improve detoxification. Broccoli is a rich source of other powerful phytonutrients such as beta-carotene and lutein, which help reduce the risk of macular degeneration and slow down the effects that aging has on your internal organs.
14) Black Raspberries
Black raspberries contain the potent antioxidant anthocyanin, which has been shown to reduce the risk of lung cancer and improve cardiovascular health. Black raspberries also contain a compound called ellagic acid that is believed to cause cancer cells to self-destruct. Black raspberries are a great source of antioxidants and other compounds that help your body better absorb nutrients, fight age and promote overall health.
Ginger has a long history as an herbal medicine for improving digestion and relieving intestinal gas and bloating. It contains the phytochemical gingerol, which has been shown to reduce nausea and vomiting in pregnant women and helps stimulate bile production to help detoxify the body. Ginger helps soothe stomach acid, making it one of the best foods you can eat if you are experiencing heartburn or have an acid reflux disorder.
Watermelon is a good source of the antioxidant lycopene, which is required for a healthy cardiovascular system. Lycopene is one of the most potent natural antioxidants known to man and may help prevent certain cancer types. Watermelon also contains other antioxidants such as vitamins C and A and flavonoids, which are potent anti-inflammatories and can help improve your overall health and well-being.
17) Chicken Breast
Chicken breast is one of the leanest sources of protein available and is loaded with the amino acid cysteine, which helps promote digestion and relieve intestinal gas. It also contains selenium, a powerful mineral that can help prevent cancer and ensure that your body functions properly. Chicken breast also contains chondroitin sulfate and glucosamine, which help support healthy joints. Make sure to buy organic chicken from a trusted source to take advantage of all these compounds’ benefits.
Avocados contain more than 20 vitamins and minerals, including potassium, folate, vitamin K and vitamin E. They have an impressive amount of fiber that can help reduce cholesterol levels and lower blood pressure. They are also a potent source of omega-3 polyunsaturated fats that promote a healthy cardiovascular system. Avocados are a rich food source that can help speed up your metabolism to trigger fat burning by boosting your body’s natural weight loss capabilities.
Barley is a unique source of dietary fiber that helps promote regular bowel movements by increasing the viscosity and nutrients in the digestive system. It also has a long history as an herbal remedy for improving digestion and reducing constipation. Barley is also rich in magnesium, which is a powerful mineral that can help prevent certain types of cancer by maintaining the integrity of the cardiovascular system.
Eggplant may not be a well-known vegetable, but it is rich in vitamins A and C and a good source of prebiotic fiber. It is also packed with antioxidants that can help fight free radical damage to your cells, which helps protect them from oxidative damage. In addition, eggplant contains zinc, which acts as an antioxidant and reduces inflammation. Eggplants are another underrated vegetable that deserves more recognition for their health benefits.
Life is short, and if you want to improve the overall health of your gut, it isn’t a question of if you should eat these foods but how. Some foods should be added to your diet in small amounts regularly, while others consume them better in larger servings for the health benefits. The list above is just a starting point, so be sure to experiment with different foods and see what works for you.